When you go to an interview, good preparation is essential. It will help your confidence level, avoid getting surprised by unexpected questions and allow you to provide the best presentation of your skills, abilities and potential.
There are a ton of things you should do to get ready for an interview – so many, it’s almost overwhelming. I like to keep things simple, so I broke it down to the seven most important steps. If you cover these, you’ll be in better shape than most. Don’t stop here – the more you prepare, the better, but make sure you hit these:
1. Why should the company hire you?
This question is huge and something many job seekers struggle to answer. You need to be able to state, clearly and concisely, what value you bring to the company and to the specific manager you would work for. Giving a compelling reason why you should be hired will set you apart. One of the reasons people struggle with this question, is their reluctance to brag. You shouldn’t be arrogant, but you need to be confident in the value you will provide and be able to talk about it.
2. What is the company looking for?
You need to know what the company and hiring manager are seeking. This will help you tailor your answer to their specific needs. If they need someone extremely good at managing projects, you want to emphasize your attention to detail, organizational skills, abilities to coordinate people and overall project management skills. If you don’t know this is important, you may skip discussing it entirely – and hurt your chances of being hired. To research this, study the job description and the job descriptions of similar positions. They will clue you in to the key priorites.
3. What’s new at the company?
You need to do your homework. At the least, check out the company’s website and read the press releases and other news they have published. After that, Google the company – I like to search under both Google News and Blogs to find out what people are writing about them. You need to have good questions to ask at the end of each interview. Ask about something major going on at the company that will impact the position you are interviewing for. This will show that you did your homework and help you understand the company better. It’s amazing how many job seekers skip this basic step.
4. What are the company’s mission statement and goals?
Most companies will publish their mission statement and corporate goals on their website. Read these and get a feel for what’s important to the company. This can give you an idea of the culture of the company and their values. If you really like what you hear (the company’s values are probably consistent with yours) this can make a great question in the interview – “I saw in your mission statement that doing XYZ is really important to the company. I value that a lot and was really impressed. Can you tell how well the company is at following and achieving this mission?”
5. What are three things you have done successfully in your career that will help the company?
You need to be able to talk about your accomplishments. Some accomplishments will be directly relevant to the company, others will just show your talent and track record of success. Make sure you have at least three accomplishments, that you can discuss in detail, that are directly related to the job you are pursuing.
6. Why is this position a good career move for you?
Companies want to hire people that will stay. Turnover is expensive and minimizing turnover is a big priority. As a result, it’s important for the hiring manager to see that the position is a good career move for you. Be able to discuss why you want to leave your current job (or why you have already left). Have a clear explanation of what you are looking for and why this motivates you. This is where a lot of job seekers get tripped up with "being overqualified.” If the hiring manager thinks you are only considering this job because you need a job right now, they may assume you will continue looking from the day you start. This is a bad situation for them if it’s true. Know why this is a good job and why you would want to stay long term and be able to talk about it.
7. Do you have all the details you need for the day of the interview?
There is a bunch of basic information you need to have ready before you interview. Directions to the location, the time of the interview and who to ask for when you get there, are some of the basics. Make sure you have this information written down at least a day ahead of the interview. On the day of the interview, you want to focus entirely on interviewing confidently. Getting distracted and stressed out because you realize you forgot to MapQuest the location, right before you’re walking out the door, won’t help. Take care of these tasks ahead of time and your interview will go more smoothly.
If you work on all seven of these questions, you will be much better prepared and more confident at your interview.